Home » Resources

Early Christian Texts Resources

Websites, journals, videos, and books featuring information on Early Christian Texts. Have an idea?  Use the form below to share your suggestions. Don’t miss the frequently asked questions page, where you’ll find answers to some common questions. 

Jump to:  Websites | Journals | Videos | Books | Courses

Some Important Websites

American Academy of Religion (AAR)

Promotes the academic study of religion and creates opportunities for research, dialogue, and engagement for religious studies scholars.

Ally Kateusz

Early Christian art illuminates patterns in the ancient data that don’t match our modern imagination of the past. Includes art and cutting-edge research focusing on the authority of early Christian women.

The Bart Ehrman Blog: The History & Literature of Early Christianity:

The Bart Ehrman Blog provides Bart’s insights and opinions on important issues related to the New Testament and early Christianity.

GLAS (Global Late Antiquity Society)

The Global Late Antiquity Society (GLAS) is an international association dedicated to scholarly innovation and reflection on global Late Antiquity that questions and expands on received models and methods.

Fragment of the Gospel of Judas

Fragment of the Gospel of Judas, public domain image (Wolfgang Rieger) from Wikimedia Commons.

Gnostic Society Library: The Nag Hammadi Library Alphabetical Index

Direct link to English translations to texts of the Nag Hammadi collection.


This site is dedicated to extracanonical Gospels  — early Christian Gospels which weren’t included in the New Testament — and includes several public domain translations.

North American Patristics Society (NAPS)

A scholarly organization dedicated to the study of the history, literature, and theology of ancient Christianity.

North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL)

Dedicated study of the Christian Apocrypha, a vast assortment of texts that feature tales of Jesus, his family and his immediate followers but, or various reasons, are not included in the New Testament.

The Nuhra Project: The Odes of Solomon

Dedicated to promoting awareness, study, and appreciation of the second-century Odes of Solomon. Committed to the public domain; freely copied and used.

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

Oldest and largest learned society devoted to the critical investigation of the Bible from a variety of academic disciplines.

Westar Institute

Dedicated to fostering and communicating the results of cutting-edge scholarship on the history and evolution of the Christian tradition, raising level of public discourse.

Some Important Journals

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

The official journal of the American Academy of Religion. Publishes research that covers the full range of world religious traditions together with provocative studies of the methodologies by which these traditions are explored. Each issue also contains a large and valuable book review section.

Journal of Biblical Literature

The flagship journal of the field, it is published quarterly and includes scholarly articles and critical notes from a variety of academic disciplines by members of the Society of Biblical Literature.

The Journal of Early Christian Studies

Focuses on the study of Christianity in the context of late ancient societies and religions from C.E. 100-700. Every issue features an extensive book review section. It is the official publication of the North American Patristics Society (NAPS).

Some Important Videos

Journey Through Forgotten Scriptures

In this video, Deborah Saxon, PhD, presents an exploration of newly-discovered writings by early followers of Jesus.

This short film that examines extra-canonical texts is the product of a very thoughtful film-maker, Rev. John Rogers, in collaboration with Hal Taussig, PhD, and animation by Elizabeth Honer. A version of this video is also available on the website of the Tanho Institute.The word “tanho” is from the Coptic—the only language that many manuscripts of extra-canonical texts now exist in—and it means, “to become alive again.” Tanho’s mission is to help them “become alive again” in the 21st century.

How Did Mary Magdalene Lose Her Reputation?

Have you ever wondered how Mary Magdalene came to be regarded as a prostitute by much of mainstream Christianity when she is portrayed in many other early sources as an apostle, even as someone Jesus loved “more than the rest of woman” (Gospel of Mary 5:5)?

In this presentation Dr. Brandon Scott helps us understand how Mary Magdalene lost her good reputation. Dr. Scott’s vast knowledge of ancient art, the Greek language, and early Christian history contribute to this informative presentation.

Learn more and read a transcript here.

Demons, Magic, Healing, and the 91st Psalm: An Interview with Dr. Tupá Guerra

Shirley Paulson interviews Dr. Tupá Guerra in this special Bible and Beyond video blog post. Tupá’s work includes studies of demonology and magic in the Dead Sea Scrolls. While earning her Masters degree at the University of Brasilia, she studied the Book of Tobias and other mythical complexes related to the fear of the feminine. In this English-language video blog post, Tupá and Shirley discuss demonology, magic, and healing themes as found in the 91st Psalm.

Learn more and access a transcript here.

Startling Discoveries of Ancient Christian Art Change Views of Women

It’s hard to imagine Mary the mother of Jesus any way other than what artists have shown us the past few centuries: mother and child (‘the Madonna’), or sorrowing mother at the foot of her son’s cross (‘pieta’). But in this video interview, Dr. Ally Kateusz shows us some of the earliest known works of art by those who remember Mary quite differently from the traditions handed down to us.

Learn more and access a transcript here.

Some Important Books

Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light

The Book by Shirley Paulson

The Secret Revelation of John was probably written around the same time some of the later books of the Bible took shape, but it was lost and buried around the 4th century. Although it was hidden throughout most of Christian history, its message seems especially relevant today because it appeared at a time somewhat like our own. Shirley Paulson introduces readers to the ancient text in her new book, Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light.

Learn more here!

Book Index by Title

Information about each book can be obtained by clicking on the title.  Scroll down to read the information listed alpha by author.

A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-First Century
After Jesus Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements
Apocrypha for Beginners: A Guide to Understanding and Exploring Scriptures Beyond the Bible
Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of Valentinus
Family Empires, Roman and Christian, Vol. 1
Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q
Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity
Healing Theologies in Christian Science and Secret Revelation of John: A Critical Conversation in Practical Theology
Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy
Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light
In the Beginning Was the Meal: Social Experimentation and Early Christian Identity
Introduction to “Gnosticism:” Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds
Inventing the Passion: How the Death of Jesus Was Remembered
Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership
Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority
Reimagining Christian Origins
Rethinking “Gnosticism:” An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category
The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts
The Coptic Gnostic Library: A Complete Edition of Nag Hammadi Codices
The Five Gospels
The Gospel of Judas: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
The Gnostic Bible
The Gnostic Gospels
The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today
The Gnostic Scriptures
The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity
The Gospel of Mary: Listening to the Beloved Disciple
The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle
The Mandaean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary
The Nag Hammadi Library: The Definitive Translation of the Gnostic Scriptures Complete in One Volume
The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts
The Protevangelium of James
The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis
The Secret Revelation of John
The Thunder: Perfect Mind: A New Translation and Introduction
What is Gnosticism?

Barnstone, Willis and Marvin Meyer, ed. The Gnostic Bible.

Revised ed. Boston and London: Shambhala Publications, 2009.

Meyer explains in the Introduction the key issues in the current scholarly debates about the identification and categorizing of so-called gnostic texts. The term ‘bible’ in the title refers to the generic Greek biblia (books), so this volume encompasses a wide range of books related to the main theme – from the earliest Wisdom gospels to Islamic and Cathar literature. It includes the texts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt.

Brakke David. The Gospel of Judas: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Yale Bible 45).

New Haven and London: Yale Universsity Press, 2022.

This is Brakke’s second published translation of The Gospel of Judas, in which he has more opportunity to offer explanations and qualifications. Brakke claims this enigmatic work provides compelling new evidence for the early history of the gnostic school of thought and its teachings and for diversity, conflict, and the persistence of apocalyptic eschatology among Christ-worshiping groups in the second century.

Brakke, David. The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

Brakke argues that the Gnostic school of thought originated as a Christian movement. His goal is to make space for this particular voice within Christianity to be heard and spoken again today. Methodologically, he treats historic reasons for heretical notions, showing where they originated and where they distorted concepts of Gnostic teachings and ethos. Then he shows the historic development of “Gnostic” thought from Sethianism through Valentinianism, indicating both the falsities that have been handed down from polemic writers and the truer meaning of the gnostic teachings. He demonstrates the anachronistic impossibility of the church rejecting Gnosticism, but also how the gnostic school of thought actually played an important role in the process by which Christians continually reinvent themselves.

Brock, Ann. Mary Magdalene, The First Apostle: The Struggle for Authority.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

The four New Testament gospels and other extra-canonical texts tell the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from different perspectives. By examining concrete details such as who is the first to see the risen Jesus and who receives a direct commission from Jesus to go and share the good news (both crucial to whether someone was considered an apostle), Brock clearly demonstrates the conflicts and struggles among the various groups of early Jesus followers regarding apostolic authority and makes a compelling case for Mary as the first apostle.

De Boer, Esther A. The Gospel of Mary: Listening to the Beloved Disciple.

New York: Continuum, 2006.

De Boer describes the differences in the portrayal of Mary in five texts, the Gospel of Mary and the four New Testament gospels. Particularly insightful is her description of the way in which the Gospel of Mary utilizes and innovates upon Stoic concepts and served as “a testimony of creative mission” for the time and place in which it was written. She does not think it should necessarily be read as a Gnostic text but rather as a book that can be interpreted best within the broader context of Jewish, Christian, and Stoic perspectives.

DeConick, April D. The Gnostic New Age: How a Countercultural Spirituality Revolutionized Religion from Antiquity to Today.

New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.

DeConick’s semi-popular style appeals to a larger, non-specialist audience who may be unaware of the scope of extracanonical writers and the relevance of their work. DeConick’s illustrations connect with modern film and embody the ideas she finds in the ancient writings. But critics argue that she glosses over nuances of the issues and could be misleading for those seeking greater depth in the texts.

Dewey, Arthur J. Inventing the Passion: How the Death of Jesus Was Remembered.

Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2017.

Understanding the events around the death of Jesus is more difficult than one might imagine, because there is so little historical evidence for it. Despite the images of Jesus as healer and teacher, there are no images of the death of Jesus from the first four centuries. Dewey investigates the stories that began to emerge in the second century, what the silencing role of crucifixion meant, and why the stories were important to the evolution of Christian thinking. Listen to a Bible and Beyond Podcast interview with Arthur Dewey here.

Dunderberg, Ismo. Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of Valentinus.

New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Dunderberg’s analysis of the Valentinian subcategory of so-called gnostic texts demonstrates why he thinks of these texts as evidence that there were Christians with an advanced spirituality. Rather than searching for boundaries between the two groups, he conceives the Valentinian community as a group within the ‘ordinary’ church. Their myths constructed a kind of picture of this world and humankind in order to change the way the world is perceived. Unlike the general attitude that the general gnostic theological premise was alienated in the universe, he sees their worldview answers to the problems of theology as much less existentialist than had been expected. It is no wonder that Dunderberg is ready to say, “I bid farewell to the discourse of orthodoxy and heresy, which can be seen in the ways scholars have used the term ‘Gnosticism’” (14).

Elliott, Susan M. (Elli). Family Empires, Roman and Christian, Vol. 1

Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2018.

The first volume of this series on Roman and Christian family empires explores the context in which early Christianity grew: the Roman family empire and those who resisted it. Elliott describes the vision of the Empire promoted by those who dominated the world of Jesus’ time, which consisted of a divinely crowned emperor surrounded by his family as his enemies were destroyed. Listen to the Bible and Beyond Podcast interviews with Elli Elliott here and here.

Funk, Robert, et al. The Five Gospels.

This new translation of the gospels includes the Gospel of Thomas, the most famous of the discoveries at Nag Hammadi, Egypt and allows the readers to compare all five easily. It also includes the findings of Westar’s 25-year-long Jesus Seminar.

Hawk, Brandon W. Apocrypha for Beginners: A Guide to Understanding and Exploring Scriptures Beyond the Bible.

Emeryville, CA: Rockridge Press

This very helpful guide demystifies the vast world of biblical apocrypha (works that deal with biblical subjects that are not in the Bible). Its well-organized structure and content answer common questions. But the book also provides a good foundation for understanding the most important texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls on through the centuries, including apostolic texts and revelations. Listen to Brandon discuss this subject on the September, 2021, Bible and Beyond podcast, “What Is the Apocrypha and Why Read It?

Kateusz, Ally. Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership.

Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Kateusz’s research on the leadership of women in early Christianity was “for little girls” who should not be told to “be submissive, like the Virgin.” It was a lie repeated through Christian authorities that caused untold suffering. Her research relies heavily on figures of art, as well as textual collaboration, showing repeatedly the evidence of women leadership in the earliest Christian practices and the subsequent efforts to hide it. Watch a Bible and Beyond video interview and read the transcript here.

King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle.

Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2003.

The three parts of this book include the full text of the brief gospel itself and King’s own English translation, her interpretation of the gospel’s teaching, and her assessment of its significance in the development of early Christianity. King’s valuation of this ancient document is highly important in that she argues its appearance causes the “old master story of the history of early Christianity” to be challenged and rewritten (39). While she explains its distinction from clichéd categories of ‘gnosticism,’ as well as its radical departure from the elite teachings of Plato and the Stoics, King also claims the text offers a new vision of the ancient Christian community. It modeled authority based not on a succession of past witnesses, but on understanding. She argues that Mary’s teaching and example validate women’s leadership in antiquity when it was “based on unwavering faith, spiritual understanding, moral strength, and a commitment to further the gospel and help others” (187).

King, Karen L. The Secret Revelation of John.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

As King points out, the Secret Revelation of John (or, ‘Secret Book of John’ or ‘Apocryphon of John’) must have been one of the most important and widespread texts produced in the second century CE. It is unique as the first Christian writing to formulate a full narrative of the nature of God, the origin of the world, and human salvation. King’s monograph is also of great importance now because no other monograph has covered the depth and breadth of the text as this one. She writes for the nontechnical person but provides valuable scholarly references in footnotes. The book includes a full translation of both the longer and shorter versions of the text, along with explanations of its origins, its religious and philosophical contexts, and King’s interpretation.

King, Karen L. What is Gnosticism?

Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.

King answers her question, “what is Gnosticism?” in the scholarly context of the history of Christian thought. It begins with an analysis of heresy and meaning in the process of Christian evolution. A large portion of the book is devoted to the history of the teaching on Gnosticism as a Christian heresy. The content of these texts caused significant reconsideration of the categorization of Gnosticism, reversing the polemic arguments. King conjectures that the term ‘Gnosticism’ may disappear from scholarly categorization. But whether it remains or not, she argues that what is important is to recognize and correct the ways in which the discourses of orthodoxy and heresy have distorted our reading and reconstruction of ancient religion. The challenge now is to propose a new framework for the study of religion in antiquity.

Layton, Bentley and David Brakke. The Gnostic Scriptures.

Second ed. The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021.

This extensive collection consists mostly of Layton’s own translations of traditionally identified Gnostic scriptures and related writings. Brakke has supplemented the work in this second edition with updated information and three new texts (translated by Brakke). The compilation includes some material not found in other sources such as fragments from second-century Christian thinkers such as Valentinus and Basilides and some Hermetic excerpts. (It does not include all Nag Hammadi texts.) The book includes a historical and helpful introduction to the materials selected as well as a thorough index. The authors’/translators’ aim is to avoid theological jargon and to translate important terms in a similar way, enabling readers to compare the wording of one work with another.

Lewis, Nicola Denzey. Introduction to “Gnosticism:” Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds.

Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

This book is prepared for students and people seeking to understand better what they’ve heard about gnosticism. Diving straight into these texts without a guide is perplexing and disorienting, and Lewis addresses the complexity with clarity and enough depth to give the reader a good foundation for further study and contemplation. She covers the historic problems with the study of gnosticism, the history of the texts, their cultural setting, and the overall meaning of the most important ones. Most of the work concerns the texts found in the Nag Hammadi Library (which she explains), but she also discusses the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary.

Lillie, Celene. The Rape of Eve: The Transformation of Roman Ideology in Three Early Christian Retellings of Genesis.

Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017.

Lillie discovered a remarkable metaphor in a rape narrative that relates to both the imperial actions of ancient Rome and modern forms of destructive behavior. Three texts from the early Christ followers – The Secret Revelation of John,  On the Origin of the World, and The Reality of the Rulers – reimagine the story of Eve in the ancient Hebrew book of Genesis. They see the jealousy of the gods [or oppressive rulers] acting like powers that rape and destroy, but Eve’s origin in the divine realm saves her and enables her to mother the future salvation.  Listen to Bible and Beyond Podcasts featuring Celene Lillie here and here.

McGrath, James and Charles G. Häberl. The Mandaean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary.

Open Source: De Gruyter, 2019.

McGrath introduces his readers to the Mandaeans, a modern-day community that practices a religion with ancient roots. Their sacred texts mention John the Baptist and Jesus – names familiar from the Bible. This is a living tradition that has sustained across the centuries, but today the Mandaeans are a community in crisis, driven from their homelands by war and oppression. Their works are still important, because they provide a wealth of resources in ancient extracanonical texts, and their unique relationship with the so-called ‘Gnostics’ of antiquity offers a valuable window to this important ancient thought. Listen to Bible and Beyond podcast interviews with James McGrath on this website: “Seriously! Dr. James McGrath’s Research Shows How Jesus Learned from Women” and “Ancient and Modern Thinkers Answer ‘Where is God When Things Go Wrong?’” Read his Bible and Beyond article, “What 1 Timothy Says about Women.”

Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts.

The International Edition ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.

This collection of texts includes all of the Nag Hammadi codices and two other highly important ones: the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Judas. This work seeks to take advantage of the recent generation of scholarship represented by James M. Robinson from an American team, Wolf-Peter Funk from a German team, and Paul-Hubert Poirier from a French-Canadian team.

Miller, Robert J. Helping Jesus Fulfill Prophecy.

Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016.

Miller explains why scholarship cannot harmonize the New Testament fulfillment of prophecy with historical evidence. Believers in the past and present have looked for proof of divine fulfillment because they believe it is true. But in doing so, argues Miller, they have created or interpreted prophecies that never existed. The purpose of the work is not to discredit belief but to help believers (and non-believers) recognize the purpose of such prophetic interpretation and distinguish history from fantasy. Listen to the Bible and Beyond podcast featuring Dr. Miller, “How the Gospel of Matthew Stays Relevant Despite Problematic Prophecies.”

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels.

New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

This was the book that made the public aware of the amazing new discoveries at Nag Hammadi. Scholars had long-assumed there were lost ‘Gnostic’ gospels, so when texts at Nag Hammadi and elsewhere came to light, Pagels published a book about them for a broader audience. This was just one year after a one-volume translation of the Nag Hammadi Library appeared in English. Pagels now questions the very term “Gnosticism.” (See Williams’ and King’s books for the reasons why.) However, her book was crucial to helping both scholars and the larger public understand that the diversity among early groups of Jesus followers could not be construed merely (or even primarily) in terms of doctrinal differences but involved broader social and political issues.

Parks, Sara. Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q.

Fortress Press and Lexington Books, 2019.

Parks finds gender parallels in the parables in Q that show Jesus’s deliberate valuing of women for God’s kingdom (‘basileia’). Q, therefore could provide evidence that Jesus was the first to teach that women were as valuable as men. But, as Parks clarifies, Jesus’s egalitarian values did not automatically lead to a dismantling of patriarchal norms of the day. Listen to a Bible and Beyond Podcast interview with Sara Parks here.

Paulson, Shirley. “Healing Theologies in Christian Science and Secret Revelation of John: A Critical Conversation in Practical Theology.”

Dissertation. University of Birmingham, UK, 2017.

This PhD thesis consists of a critical ‘conversation’ about healing theologies and practices between historical texts and Paulson’s own contemporary Christian Science experience. The historical texts are the second-century Secret Revelation of John and the nineteenth-century Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy.  The conversation is structured on three key themes, or enduring theological ideas, which form the basis of similar Christian healing practices among our three historic periods. Listen to Dr. Brandon Scott interview Paulson in this Bible and Beyond podcast episode, “If You Love the Bible, Look Closer at the Noncanonical Texts.”

Paulson, Shirley. Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light.

Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017.

Paulson and many other scholars of early Christianity agree that the Secret Revelation of John is a highly important text for those engaged in serious study of Christian history. Illuminating the Secret Revelation of John: Catching the Light is devoted to broad public engagement, providing both commentary and a paraphrase. Even the best English translations of the ancient text are difficult to read. Paulson’s book is the first to include a modern paraphrase of the entire ancient text, rendering it more understandable and accessible for contemporary readers.

Robinson, James M., ed. The Coptic Gnostic Library: A Complete Edition of Nag Hammadi Codices.

Five vols. Leiden:  Publisher: Brill. Leiden, 2000.

This is the complete version of the Nag Hammadi Library in five volumes. It includes both the Coptic and the English translation as well as commentary and notes. A shorter version was published in one volume in English only by James Robinson and his team of translators and editors in 1978. The one-volume edition was updated by Marvin Meyer in 2007.

Robinson, James M., ed. The Nag Hammadi Library: The Definitive Translation of the Gnostic Scriptures Complete in One Volume.

Third ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990.

This is a seminal work for anyone interested in reading what some early followers of Jesus actually wrote, listened to, or read in the first three centuries after the life of Jesus. This book contains the first translations of these texts into English. 40 of the 52 texts, including the well-known Gospel of Thomas, existed in no extant form until these texts surfaced in 1947. The book also includes other important finds from other sites such as The Gospel of Mary and the The Act of Peter.

Saxon, Deborah Niederer. The Care of the Self in Early Christian Texts.

The Bible and Cultural Studies. Gewerbestrasse, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

This book presents the first three centuries after the life of Jesus through the lens of Foucault’s “care of the self.” It reveals a rich variation among early Christ movements by illuminating their practices instead of what we anachronistically assume to have been their beliefs. Analysis of the discourse of martyrdom demonstrates how Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp represented martyrdom as self-care. The book then brings to light an entire spectrum of alternative views in texts from Nag Hammadi and elsewhere. Its analysis exposes the false binary of thinking in terms of “orthodoxy” versus “heresy” or the specific heresy of “Gnosticism.” The analysis has many implications for feminist scholarship. Listen to Bible and Beyond Podcast interviews with Deb Saxon here, here, and here.

Smith, Geoffrey S. Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity.

Oxford University Press, 2015.

Smith argues that Christian attitudes toward internal diversity has been powerfully influenced by the literary genre of heresy catalogues since near the beginning. Rather than regarding them now as archives of historically reliable information, as they have been traditionally understood, they should be studied for what they are: early Christian instruments of self-definition and discredit. The earliest Followers of Jesus did not make use of this polemic genre, so a study of their origins provides new insights concerning their use in the early years.

Taussig, Hal. A New New Testament: A Bible for the Twenty-First Century.

Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

In addition to 10 of the newly discovered texts, along with the entire New Testament, the introduction to this book includes valuable insights regarding the sources of extracanonical texts and their relationship to the traditionally defined canon. The last portion of the book is an excellent ‘companion’ to A New New Testament, including explanations of its context in antiquity and today. Finally, its suggestions for individual and group study are most useful. Listen to a Bible and Beyond Podcast interview with Hal Taussig here.

Taussig, Hal. In the Beginning Was the Meal: Social Experimentation and Early Christian Identity.

Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

The latest study resulting from the twenty year Society of Biblical Study Seminar on Meals in the Greco-Roman World, this book examines the new scholarly consensus about the social context of the vast majority of canonical and extra-canonical documents in the first two centuries CE.  Although Taussig  has co-authored four other studies about the  nexus of early Christ-literature and social gatherings, this is both the most accessible and thorough study. Hal presented a Bible and Beyond Discussion about this topic, “Luke, Didache, and Prayer of Thanksgiving: It Began with Meals.” View the archived B+B discussion on YouTube here.

Taussig, Hal and Elizabeth A. Castelli, Eds. Reimagining Christian Origins.

Valley Forge, PA, 1996.

This book examines a wide range of  canonical and extra canonical texts and their socio-cultural settings.  It includes a review and perspective Introduction by Castelli and Taussig “Reimagining Christian Origins by Painting Like Picasso” and Taussig’s “Dealing Under the Table: Ritual Negotiating of Women’s Power in the Syro-Phoenician Woman Pericope.”

Taussig, Hal. The Thunder: Perfect Mind: A New Translation and Introduction.

Gewerbestrasse, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

The only book in English on this quite well-known text. The Thunder: Perfect Mind was one among the 52 early Christ movement texts believed to have been written during the first through third centuries CE.  Taussig’s study is both very accessible to lay readers and the most-up-to-date and thorough scholarly examination of this highly unusual and strikingly postmodern text.  Hailed by many artists and writers (novelists Toni Morrison and Umberto Eco, and film makers Julie Dash, Ridley Scott, Jordon Scott), Thunder is a first person singular (mostly female) divine voice.  It contains a new English translation as well as a detailed Coptic text.

Vearncombe, Erin and Brandon Scott and Hal Taussig. After Jesus Before Christianity: A Historical Exploration of the First Two Centuries of Jesus Movements. 

New York: HarperOne, 2021.

Written by scholars for the public, this book challenges nearly everyone’s assumptions about the founding story of Christianity. It highlights the struggle to find the meaning of life in the midst of Roman violence, as well as the diverse communities of Jesus followers whose religious innovations surprise the modern world.

Vuong, Lily. The Protevangelium of James.

Edited by Tony Burke, Brent Landau, and Janet Spittler. 8 vols, Early Christian Apocrypha 7.
Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2019.

Vuong’s work probes the early Christian understanding of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The ancient text, not well known among contemporary Protestants, was deeply cherished in the early church. Vuong’s major contribution through this translation and commentary explores the origins of the deep veneration that people had for Mary.  Listen to a Bible and Beyond Podcast interview with Lily Vuong here.

Williams, Michael Allen. Rethinking “Gnosticism:” An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category.

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Williams is an early voice in the scholarly questioning of the categorization of ‘gnosticism’. As a category constructed in our time, he argues, it survives more as an obstacle to understanding. The book begins with an outline of the main teachings of what ‘gnosticism’ was and the allegations against it. The second half of the book deconstructs the gnostic clichés, showing why a typological designation would be preferable. Williams suggests replacing ‘gnosticism with ‘biblical demiurgical myth,’ because it is a more accurate description; and it includes the distinction between creator(s) and controller(s) of the material world and the transcendent divine being of Christian scripture.

Resource Suggestions?

Share your resource suggestions using the form below. For longer comments or suggestions, please use the contact form here.